A new DHB pay offer to mental health nurses – with a new top base salary by 2020 of $77,386 for inpatient nurses and $83,712 for community nurses – still leaves issues around short staffing of the sector to be resolved, says the PSA.

But PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk said it was hopeful that the recommendations of the Mental Health Inquiry – due to be delivered to the Government by the end of this month –  would tackle these issues “head-on”  and provide workable solutions that could be implemented “almost immediately”.

Voting starts next week on the DHBs offer to PSA nurses which mirrors the precedent-setting settlement between the 20 district health boards and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation made in early August after difficult and drawn-out negotiations.  The offer to the about 3,500 mental health and public health nurses and mental health support worker members of the Public Service Association includes an agreement to work with the DHBs and ‘other union partners’ on a pay equity process for all members covered by the PSA nurse multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) with an implementation timeframe yet to be decided.

Polaczuk said the offer included financial recognition but issues such as short staffing remain.

“PSA members have regularly raised the issues around insufficient staffing and its impact on the quality of patient care and staff wellbeing. For far too long our mental health and public health nurses have faced unsustainable workloads and unsafe working environments.”

Ashok Shankar,  a DHB national organiser and bargaining advocate for the PSA, said the the mental health sector continues to have major problems to fill existing nurse vacancies. He said pay increases may help attract more back to the sector but the sector could still face difficulties as there didn’t seem to the numbers out there to actually recruit.

The new MECA pay offer includes a commitment to the safe staffing and joint NZNO-DHBs Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM) process. “We’ve also agreed to a process of engaging with the DHBs workplace by workplace to determine the number of staff needed to nurse safely. And an escalation process to deal with workloads when they reach an unsafe level.”

Violence and assaults on particularly mental health nurses have been an ongoing serious concern raised by nurses this year.  A petition started by Nurse Florence, prompted by the assault this winter of a Christchurch mental health nurse, lists some of the violence nurses have been subject to in the workplace including broken bones, attempted strangulation, and being knocked unconscious.

Shankar said the MECA did have a clause on workplace violence and aggression including a process on dealing with that.

Ratification meetings are due to start on Monday October 8 and finish on October 26.

The first of the PSA nursing multi-employer collective agreements (MECAs) – covering all of the country except the Auckland region – expired on September 30 last year and the Auckland MECA expired in mid-December. The two PSA nursing MECAs cover workforces with a current combined annual payroll of around $217 million.

DHB PSA mental health and public health nurse pay offer

  • The main MECA expired a year ago and the new contract would expire in 2020 – so the offer covers a three year period
  • 3 x 3% increase for all members – the first backdated to July 2, the second backdated to September 3 and the third in June next year
  • Two new pay steps on the current five step inpatient mental health nurse pay scale with the new step 7 of $77,386 coming into effect on June 1 2020
  • One new step on the enrolled nurse nurse pay scale and one new merit step on the mental health assistant pay scale in June 2019
  • The top step of the eight step community mental health and public health nurse pay scale will increase in June 2019 from current $74,377 to $83,712
  • The top steps of the designated senior nurse salary scale will increase by a further 3% in 2019 resulting in a senior salary scale range of $79,760 to $130,653
  • An agreement to work in partnership with DHBs and other union partners to negotiate a pay equity process for all members within the term of the MECA.


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